Permalinks stand for permanent links. WordPress has a set of pattern options available for sites to use. It is entirely up to you which of these you use. Go to Settings > Permalinks to find those options. On new WordPress installations, default permalinks look like http://domain.com/?p=123 called “Plain”. Obviously if this post’s URL was like that, it would have gave no clue as to the contents of this page without opening the page, would it? Had the title been like it is right now http://thisismairaj.com/why-change-permalinks, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? That’s what this is about: making sense of site’s permanent links.
If you already have an established site with default structure for long, this would have stuck with SEO. And changing this permalink structure now may cause a lot of broken links and 404 errors. If you don’t handle it correctly, this could potentially cause a lot of negative impact on your SEO. That is why you should carefully plan and know what happens when you change permalink structure.
Why change permalink structure
First of all, the reason is that you CAN. So why not? Of course, that is not the greatest logic. Here are the benefits to consider:
- URLs like http://domain.com/what-this-site-is-about tell overall a lot about the contents than http://domain.com/?p=123
- Search engines love keywords! And .. if you have Post name or Day and name or Month and name permalinks structure selected you could easily change post’s slug from http;//domain.com/the-post-without-keywords to http://domain.com/what-is-seo. As you can see, in the latter option, there are keywords and search engines use what is in the URLs as an indicator of what is inside. So be wise and use good target keywords
First of all, where to change permalink structure
- Go to Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks
- On the given page, you see there are various permalink structure settings you can set
- I personally prefer Post name, because it is the simplest possible structure. Many popular sites has Day and name and Month and name structures and they seem to be doing just as well SEO-wise.
- Now you can change the structure from here, what do you do about internal links (links you have throughout posts/pages)? They must still be in their old state i.e. Plain (http://domain.com/?p=123). Do you need to redirect them? If so, how?
How to redirect old permalinks to new
To fix broken links and 404 errors, simply we need to fix each one of them. We need to e.g. redirects links from http://domain.com/?p=123 to http://domain.com/seo-keyword-optimization. There is a handy little tool to redirect old permalink structure to the new. It is called Simple 301 Redirects plugin. HTTP 301 Redirect is basically a redirect which tells search engines to permanently change a URL from one to second.
- Go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New
- Search for Simple 301 Redirects plugin, install & activate it
- Upon activation, you should see a new menu to Settings panel
- There are two fields on next page first labelled Request and latter as Destination
- Just take put old permalink structure in the Request field and new updated structure in the Destination field.
- To get old or new permalink structure, go to Settings > Permalinks try clicking any option and you will have its structure in the Custom Structure field
- This method of redirecting old permalinks to new is valid for those with Day and name or Month and name, not for Plain (http://domain.com/?p=123)
- For redirecting plain permalinks structure to some any other structure, see next method
Yoast Redirect Tool
Yoast is great! It has contributed numerous times to the WordPress community and still does with its fantastic Yoast SEO plugin. Thanks to Yoast, we have a handy redirect tool which generates .htaccess redirect directives as per you tell it.
The tool is fairly self-explanatory. Just give it your domain name, select your old permalink structure. It will either give you code to add to .htaccess file, located in root directory of your site or where folders like wp-admin and wp-includes are situated. Or… it will simply tell you if you need to do the redirect in the first place. All depends upon your site’s structure.